MEET THE TEAM

Get to know Team WITS

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Ashley Bloom, Chief Development Officer

She/Her

    As WITS Chief Development Officer, Ashley Bloom fosters a culture of philanthropy and ensures that fund development strategies are executed in keeping with the WITS values, vision, and mission. She takes pride in building relationships with WITS supporters and leading the development team to achieve its goals. Ashley has worked over a decade in fundraising, holding positions at American Cancer Society, Food Allergy Research & Education, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ashley's passion for the WITS mission is driven by her toddler's love for reading. They enjoy experiencing the diverse world of kids lit together during bedtime read alouds.

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    Shawn Bush, Program Manager, MDM

      Shawn is an experienced educator who knows that supporting our school communities requires thoughtful planning and consideration of all students’ identities and needs. As Program Manager of Mid-Day Mentoring, he designs intentional and student-focused curriculum, guides and assists team members, and facilitates volunteer literacy mentorship programs for pre-k through 8th grade students. Through his work, he also leads professional development and partners with CPS teachers and administrators. Prior to his time at WITS, Shawn was a learning behavior specialist and high school reading teacher for students with diverse needs. Shawn has acquired a Masters in Special Education from Dominican University, BA in Philosophy, Law and Society from American University, and is first aid and mandated reporter certified.

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      Delaney Earley, Program Coordinator

        As a Program Coordinator, Delaney builds relationships with volunteers, corporate partners, and school administrators throughout Chicago to provide high-quality literacy programming to WITS students. Before joining the WITS Team, Delaney served at City Year Chicago, where she was a tutor and mentor to 3rd and 4th grade students on the South Side of the city. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in Urban Studies and was excited to return home to Chicago to cheer on the White Sox in person, and spend time with family and friends. The Harry Potter series sparked her love for reading at a young age, and she continues to enjoy a wide variety of literature. 

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        Jessica Gilliam, Program Coordinator

          As a program coordinator, Jessica cultivates strong relationships between mentors, teachers, and corporate partners to provide engaging, student-centered literacy programming. Prior to joining WITS, she was the English and Community Projects Coordinator at a lab school in Merida, Mexico where she designed programs with a focus on literacy and the arts. Jessica holds an MEd in Instructional Leadership and a BA in English both from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys reading, puzzling, and going on road trips. 

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          Precious Hutton, Program Coordinator

            Precious facilitates WITS weekly literacy mentorship programs with students and volunteers while also developing and managing relationships between volunteers, corporate partners, and school coordinators. Precious earned a BA in Psychology with a concentration in Black Cultural Studies from Claremont Mckenna College located in Claremont, California. Prior to joining the WITS community, she has worked extensively with nonprofit organizations that focus on youth development and working with BIPOC youth. During her free time, she loves dancing, writing, and traveling across the world with close friends and family.

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            Annie Kennedy, Program Manager, WPM

              Annie brings over a decade of nonprofit and youth development experience to her role at WITS. As Program Manager, Workplace Mentoring, she designs engaging content and curriculum and facilitates literacy mentorship programming for pre-K through 8th grade students and their mentors. Prior to joining WITS, she worked at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she supported graduate students as they completed their community-based field placements. Annie holds an MSW in Management of Human Services from the University of Michigan and a BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago.

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              Elizabeth Kristoff, Development & Communications Manager

              She/Her

                After facilitating WITS programs for three years, Elizabeth now shares WITS’ story with those equally committed to the success of Chicago Public Schools students and educators. Elizabeth holds a BFA in Dramaturgy from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and worked as an arts administrator and teaching artist prior to joining WITS. She enjoys testing new recipes, writing poetry, and inspiring her two young children to be lifelong readers.

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                Tena Latona, Chief Executive Officer

                  As Chief Executive Officer, Tena oversees the financial growth and strategic implementation of WITS programs, the largest provider of literacy services to Chicago public elementary schools. Formerly as WITS’ Chief Strategy Officer, she oversaw the doubling of individual giving and development of sustainable funding practices. Over 10 years, she has held leadership roles in a variety of Chicago non-profits, with majority being in the education and youth development space. Tena has served as Assistant Director of Corporate Development at the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business, Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program, and Regional Director at Up2Us Sports. Before moving to Chicago she was a Development Officer at Wayne State University, where she also received both her BA in Public Relations and MBA in Marketing and Management. 

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                  Elena Medeiros, Program Coordinator

                    Elena is a recent graduate from DePaul University with a BA in political science and a minor in history. She is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota and grew up speaking and reading in English and Portuguese. As a new program coordinator at WITS, Elena is thrilled to work with the WITS community to share her excitement for language, literature, and learning.

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                    Alex Michel, Development Director

                      As Development Director, Alex cultivates and develops strategies for corporate partnerships and plans and executes WITS annual events, including the Blackboard Affair gala. Alex also leads the WITS Associates Board in their initiatives to raise money and support WITS programming. She graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University.

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                      Tra'Lisha Renteria, Program Specialist

                        Tra’Lisha coordinates WITS student literacy programs, acts as a liaison between our partner schools and our community and corporate volunteers, and is responsible for reconstructing the WITS Mid-Day mentoring journal to align with Common Core Standards. Tra’Lisha holds a BA in English from Dominican University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. Prior to coordinating programs, she held AmeriCorps positions with organizations such as Jumpstart and City Year Chicago. During her free time, Tra’Lisha enjoys boxing, playing her guitar, and photography.

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                        Daphne Robinson, Program Manager, RLTA

                          As the Program Manager for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award, Daphne designs and implements the Summer Institute Professional Development series for teachers. Daphne recruits and build relationships with teachers and other educators to ensure robust study group recruitment. She manages WITS' relationship with the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure CPDUs processes are up to date. Daphne is a former RLTA awardee, and participates in the alumni book club. Daphne received a BA in Theology and Italian from Loyola University Chicago, a Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Roosevelt University and Middle School Endorsement from Roosevelt University. Daphne loves to read.

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                          Kellie Romany, Marketing Director

                          She/Her

                            Kellie develops and manages all aspects of the WITS marketing strategy. This includes website development, creation of all assets for campaigns, as well as all video production for WITS programs. Kellie graduated with a BA in General Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a MFA in Painting and Drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kellie is a practicing artist and has participated in programming at major museums, including The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Kellie has also shown in galleries both nationally and internationally. 

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                            Kristen Strobbe, Chief Program Officer

                              Kristen is responsible for creating and implementing evaluation processes for WITS programs that track impact on all key stakeholders. Kristen formerly worked for the Academy of Urban School Leadership as a math tutor in Humboldt Park. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a BA in Journalism. She served two years with City Year at an elementary school in Englewood.

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                              Erin Toale, Marketing Coordinator

                              She/They

                                As WITS Marketing Coordinator, Erin (she/they) manages the WITS social media accounts and oversees the writing and editing of the WITS blog. She is currently failing to abide by her New Year’s resolution to stop buying piles of books from Women and Children First until her TBR pile is under control. Erin loves cooking, quilting, and gardening, and has facilitated the Empty Bottle’s Community Book Club since 2014. Her favorite author and #1 friend crush is Samantha Irby. You will see her beloved 9-year-old pitbull, Noodles, in many of WITS’ social media posts.

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                                Ellen Werner, Program Director

                                  As Program Director, Ellen cultivates school and corporate relationships, oversees program design and quality control, and manages the WITS library and WITSummer Books initiatives. Ellen formerly served with Christopher House, focusing on adult literacy programs. She earned her BA in English from DePaul University.

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                                  Nick Wilson, Operations Manager

                                    Nick manages WITS operations and administrative processes including gift processing, accounts payable, acknowledgment letters, database management, and risk management. He previously worked in operations at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the University of Chicago Booth Schools of Business. He has an AA in Philosophy from Harold Washington College. His favorite hobby is reading.